The incredible stories of life and survival in the shadow of the Berlin Wall

Feb 01 2019 Published by under 深圳桑拿网

See the stories in full in ‘Shadow of the Wall’ on tonight’s Dateline at 9.

深圳桑拿网

30pm on SBS ONE.

In 1964, just three years after the wall was built, Karl-Heinz Richter masterminded the escape of some of his friends from the communist controlled East Berlin.

The group jumped onboard a moving train as it passed through the East of the city on its way to the West.

But when it came to his chance, he lost his grip and fell.

“I lay here with two broken legs, a broken arm and ribs and I was unconscious,” he told Dateline’s Amos Roberts at the scene of his escape attempt.

“The first interrogation lasted 24 hours, without a break. I was beaten till I was unconscious.”

He eventually managed to drag himself home, but a week later he was arrested and ultimately sent to a notorious prison in East Berlin run by the Stasi secret police.

“I helped 17 of my friends to flee. I had committed one of the worst crimes you could commit here,” he said. “You get a life sentence or a death penalty for it.”

“The first interrogation lasted 24 hours, without a break. I was beaten till I was unconscious.”

“I was afraid that if I confessed, they’d kill me, shoot me.”

He was also denied medical attention for the injuries he sustained trying to escape.

The prison he was held in is now a museum and memorial where Karl-Heinz works as one of the tour guides. He’s thankful that Germany has ultimately found freedom, but said the wall has cast a terrible shadow over his family.

His wife was repeatedly raped after she too was imprisoned and he became estranged from his daughter.

“She reproached me, saying I shouldn’t have done what I did,” he tells Amos. “If you have family, you shouldn’t resist,” is how he describes her feelings on what he did.

“I would do exactly what I did, time and again”

But he said, “I would do exactly what I did, time and again, because I don’t want to live in a dictatorship.”

Karl-Heinz’s story is a familiar one after Germany, and its capital Berlin, split in 1961 into the East and West after political pacts created following World War Two became fractured.

For 28 years, those left in the communist east faced severe punishment or even death for trying to illegally reach the capitalist west.

Meet the man who saved hundreds

Hasso Herschel did manage to escape to the West, where he embarked on a daring plan to help others.

“It was not possible to cross the border on the earth, it wasn’t possible to fly over the border, so we decided to dig under the border,” he told Roberts.

He and seven other men tunnelled for over 100 metres underneath the wall, and right under the noses of the border guards.

The group started in May 1962 and spent nine months working around the clock to create the tunnel.

“Minute by minute more people arrived… screaming for the freedom to travel.”

“From half a metre a day, to 10cm or 5cm a day, one day, that was the best we could manage,” he said of the painstaking task.

“The best days were nearly one metre, but that was very, very seldom.”

Hasso then crawled through to the East to meet the escapees. 29 people used it to reach the West, including his sister and her daughter.

Over ten years, he helped a total of 1,000 escape uusing a variety of ingenious methods, even concealing people inside a hollowed-out welding machine, which is now on display in a museum at Checkpoint Charlie.

“It was the greatest surprise I ever had in my life,” he told SBS of the moment the wall fell in 1989. “Nobody counted on this, nobody.”

‘I had a duty towards the state’: Former border guard

Harald Jäger was one of the people trying to stop the escapes, working as an East Berlin border guard.

“I saw my role back then like this… I had a duty towards the state, namely making sure the borders of our state were protected,” he said.

Political gaps were already starting to appear in that border in 1989, and on duty on the night the wall fell, he watched a press conference announcing the border was being opened.

Although he was commander of the border crossing, no one had told him.

“After we opened the barrier, the masses broke into cheers. It’s impossible to describe it.”

“Within 10, 20 minutes, the first East German citizens showed up at the checkpoint,” he recalls. “And minute by minute more people arrived… screaming for the freedom to travel.”

He repeatedly called his superior to ask for orders, but there were none.

“I was under enormous pressure. On one side, pressure from the East German citizens and on the other, pressure from my colleagues,” he said.

With concerns that the situation could easily turn violent, he had to make a decision.

“I went to the relevant officer and I ordered him to open the barrier and let all East German citizens leave, without checks,” he said.

“After we opened the barrier, the masses broke into cheers. It’s impossible to describe it. You had to be there.”

See their stories in full in ‘Shadow of the Wall’ on tonight’s Dateline at 9.30pm on SBS ONE.

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